Light meals / snacks

Saute potato, carrot and fennel, with coriander, turmeric, sesame oil and sesame seeds (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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A few years ago, I received a free pack of gardening fennel seeds with a random purchase. This year I finally got around to spray the seeds onto the veggie patch. To my surprise, they were seeding. Inspired, I went down to the supermarket and bought a fennel bulb to cook a meal.

It was a simple meal – I diced some potato, carrot and fennel, then saute the vegetables with a little turmeric and sesame oil. I added some fresh coriander and sesame seeds at the end. Quite satisfying as a mid-winter meal.

Saute potato, carrot and fennel, with coriander, sesame oil and sesame seeds (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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Simple bean sprout salad with soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Bean sprout salad with soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds, low FODMAP, gluten free option, vegan

I am hooked on charity shops. I love the unique pieces that I can’t buy from the department stores and homeware chain stores. There is a charity shop in the next suburb and I visit it every week, rain or shine. Last week I found this big brown urn. It was just like the one my grandmother used to grow bean sprout – layers of beans between cloth pieces; some water; and a towel covering the top of the urn; and magically we had bean sprouts for dinners.

Brown urn for growing bean sprouts
Brown urn for growing bean sprouts

Although growing bean sprouts may take a bit of time and effort. Cooking bean sprouts can be effortless. For a simple salad, I first blanch the bean sprouts lightly, add a dash of sesame oil, some sliced green shallot, then a dash of soy sauce. Garnish with a little toasted sesame seeds, it is ready to serve.

Bean sprout contains only trace amounts of FODMAPs and can be consumed freely by FODMAPers.

Recipe is as follows:

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Grandmother’s fried pork cracklings, warm rice with pork fat and soy sauce 豬油豉油撈飯 (low FODMAP)

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I cooked some cracklings tonight, the way my grandmother cooked them a long long time ago.

Grandmother's pork crackling, warm rice with pork fat and soy sauce

When I was growing up, pork fat was a rare delicacy. Meat was rationed. It was difficult to imagine that one would waste the precious coupons on pork fat instead of good cut of meat.

My grandmother was an extraordinary woman, always working, never complaint and never indulged herself, except, she loved pork fat. Occasionally she took me to the food market across the street and bought a small slap of pork fat with skin. She cut up the meat, then pan fried the pieces in a wok over the coal stove.

The pan frying turned very quickly to deep frying. She scooped out the oil and stored it in a little black urn. The black urn sat on a rotten timber shelf up high away from the cats, looking like treasury.  In the wok, the pork pieces eventually turned into golden delicious cracklings which we shared with the whole extended family of about 10 people.

Over the next few days, grandmother and I enjoyed hot boiled rice with pork fat for lunches, flavored with a dash of soy sauce. My grandmother called it ‘lou fan’ meaning ‘mix the rice’. These were some of the most delicious meals I ever had.

Grandmother's coal stove - grandmother's pork cracklings, pork fat with boiled rice and soy sauce
My grandmother’s coal stove

I still remember our kitchen. The walls were never painted, darken by the smoke from the coal cakes.  The small earthy stove was among piles of coal cakes, which we purchased from a small shop at the end of our lane way.  From very young age, I helped to carry the coal cakes home, a few at a time, on top of a small timber slab.  Our house cats slept on top of the coal cakes during winters for the warmth from the stove, waking up in the morning, looking filthy. The cats were working cats and expected to fetch most of their own food (rats). They ate scraps from the family meals, most of the time it was just some rice, vegetables and sauce. Unloved and hungry, they had anxious looks in the eyes that I could never forget. They had a hard life.

Today, we have shiny appliances in our kitchen and beautiful stone splash back. We have a beautiful dog in our household which we dearly love. He enjoys his home cooked meals with all the goodness.

As I enjoyed the meal, I really appreciate what we have today.

Recipe is as follows:

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Wonton salad with XO Sauce

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Do you know that 28% of the Australian population was born overseas?

For Harmony Day this year, a few lovely ladies at work organized a ‘bring-a-culture-dish’ morning tea event. I made a large dish of wonton ‘salad’. It was distinctively Cantonese with a HK style XO sauce, and distinctively not Cantonese as it was served lightly chilled, a style used frequently by Northern China called ‘liang ban’.

This wonton salad is also fantastic for school fetes.  A few years ago I made a massive plate of wontons for my boy’s school fete – it sold out within 20 minutes. I am planning to make it again for this year’s fete.

I used lots of ingredients for the wontons, as I had them readily available in the pantry. If you can’t find some of the ingredients, feel free to skip some of them. I have marked all the ingredients you can skip with ^ below.

A video on how to wrap wontons is also attached below.

Wonton salad with XO sauce

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Hairy gourd ‘liangban’ salad with XO sauce 节瓜凉拌

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This week I discovered an Asian grocery store 10 minutes’ drive away. Their stock range was quite comprehensive. The man in the shop helped me with the bags to my car which was sort of services I never experienced from an Asian store. I managed to find a parking spot very close to the shop – can’t believe my luck. I was very impressed.

I picked up a beautifully fresh hairy gourd from the shop. Hairy gourd is a very popular vegetable in Southern China, easy to grow with plenty of subtropical rains. The gourd is normally cooked in a soup or a stew with a tender and soft texture.

Today I decided to do something different with a ‘liangban’ 凉拌 salad. I added XO sauce to the salad for a kick as the gourd, on its own, could be quite plain. XO sauce is a mildly spicy paste made with dried seafood, garlic and chili, packed of flavors.

Hairy gourd with XO sauce

I first peeled the skin of the gourd; I then julienned the flesh, disregard the seedy part of the gourd (but reversed for a soup dish). I then briefly blanched the vegetable until it was just cooked (about 1-2 minute) and ran it under cold water to cool; I mixed the drained vegetable with sesame oil, XO sauce, a generous dash of dark soy sauce, white pepper, chili, sesame seeds and sliced green shallot. I left the salad in fridge to chill for couple of hours before serving.  So simple and delicious. No recipe required.

Spiced lamb meat balls with pumpkin, carrot and rice vermicelli (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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On the weekend we had a lovely lunch on Fort Denison, a small island in Sydney Harbor.  It was for Nadine’s 40s birthday. Nadine was originally from Melbourne. She fell in love with Bill, a Sydneysider. She moved to Sydney and settled in his small waterfront cottage by the river. There they are raising 2 gorgeous kids.

Bill has IBS – but not just the ordinary IBS. He is sensitive to most ‘common’ food including coconut milk, soy sauce and packaged meat from the supermarkets. Cooking for Bill is not just a challenge, it is a war against the modern world that many of us accustom to.

Every time I create a FODMAP dish, I think of Bill’s challenges. What are we really feeding ourselves nowadays and what consequence would follow?

Shop bought meat balls is one those food that you rarely know what you get. In this recipe, I used basic ingredients and work on blending the ingredients to achieve the flavors. Hope you will enjoy it.

Spiced meat balls with pumpkin, rice vermicelli, carrot and capsicum

Recipe is as follows:

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Rice balls with wasabi furikake seasoning

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After a weekend of non-stop eating and drinking, we were keen to have a very simple meal this lovely Monday evening – perhaps some warm rice with a few sprinkle of seasoning.

I cooked the rice in a rice cooker. I used 1 cup of white glutinous rice with 1 cup of medium grain rice. The cooked rice was gently soft but not too sticky. I then rolled some rice into balls, and coated the rice balls with furikake.

I bought my furikake from a local Asian store. I particularly like the one with wasabi flavor. The furikake was made in China which is fine with me as it was very delicious.

A simple meal and no recipe required.

Furikake rice balls

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